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SCV Voices: Special interests only ones to benefit from toll roads

Posted: April 24, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 24, 2013 2:00 a.m.

I was reading the article last week about making the HOV lanes on the I-5 through Santa Clarita toll lanes ("Metro committee approves I-5 toll lanes in SCV," April 17).

Several years ago Measure R, a sales tax increase, was passed to make freeway improvements. One of the improvements to be funded through Proposition R was the expansion of I-5 from Castaic to the Highway 14 interchange.

Since I drive over the Newhall Pass daily to and from work. I voted for Measure R expecting my commute to be improved.

According to The Signal article, members of the Planning and Programming Committee for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted unanimously for a public-private partnership to construct new toll lanes on I-5 from Parker Road to the junction of I-5 and Highway 14.

We have already seen a similar project on the carpool lanes of the Harbor Freeway. The result has been that using the carpool lanes requires a driver to pay $30 for a transponder and pay a toll that is extremely steep during rush hour traffic.

Predictably, fewer cars use the carpool lane and more cars use the regular lanes.

According to a Los Angeles Times article published on April 10, the average speed in the regular lanes has dropped four miles per hour to eight miles per hour on the lanes not designated carpool lanes.

The article also states that usage of the carpool lanes dropped by 20 percent to 50 percent after the lanes became toll lanes, and the speed of traffic in the toll lanes increased due to lower traffic volume.

Furthermore, since when is a carpool three people instead of two people?

If you have only a two-seat car, I guess you are out of luck in peak traffic because a car with fewer than three people would be subject to the toll during peak travel hours.

The Signal article stated, "The proposal calls for a guarantee that traffic in the toll lanes does not drop below 45 mph, according to Metro officials."

Not surprisingly, the expected impact on the remaining lanes is not discussed.

Basically what will happen is that we will have the same number of lanes that we historically have had, so there will be no relief for drivers who do not pay a toll.

This is after we voted for the sales tax increase mandated by Measure R.

So we are paying for more 75 percent of the cost of the new lanes and will not be able to use them without paying a toll.

The effective result is that there is no additional capacity for those not paying a toll, and our sales tax revenue is funding the toll operator’s profits.

If, in fact, the funds to complete the project will not be available for several years, we clearly would be better off just having the carpool lanes that are currently under construction completed in accordance with the original plan and forego the toll lanes altogether.

This is a clear case of special interests getting their hands on taxpayer money, and Santa Clarita residents should not stand for it.

Jim de Bree is a resident of Valencia.


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